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Bishops welcome efforts to defend unborn child of undocumented teen

Austin, Texas, Oct 23, 2017 / 03:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Texas' bishops have welcomed the decision of an appeals court delaying the government-assisted procurement of an abortion by an undocumented teenager who is under federal custody in the state.

However, a request for a review of the appeal has been filed, again opening up the question of whether the government will be forced to facilitate an abortion for the unaccompanied minor.

“Federal and Texas state officials are to be commended for defending the life of an innocent unborn child in a recent case involving an unaccompanied pregnant minor in federal immigration custody,” the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops stated Oct. 20.

They said a lower court’s Oct. 18 ruling allowing the girl to get an abortion would “require the government to facilitate and participate in ending the innocent life of the unborn child.”

“Indeed, this case, one of many brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has as its objective compelling others to perform, facilitate, or pay for abortion who do not wish to do so. This objective is unconscionable. No one —the government, private individuals or organizations — should be forced to be complicit in abortion,” the bishops urged.

The bishops’ statement came in response to an Oct. 20 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The case revolves around the question of whether the federal government will facilitate an abortion for a 17-year-old from Central America, known only as “Jane Doe.” Since September, the minor has been in federal custody in a Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Under Texas law, minors must have either parental consent or a state permission to obtain an abortion. Doe received state permission Sept. 25, 2017. However, the Department of Health and Human Services has objected to transporting the minor to abortion appointments.

The government argues that since she is a minor in their custody, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teen, and also states it has an interest in not creating incentives for minors to cross international borders in order to obtain abortions.

On Oct. 20, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Doe would not be allowed immediately to obtain the abortion. This overruled a Texas district court’s ruling that Doe should be allowed to access an abortion immediately.

Instead, the appeals court said, a sponsor must be found for the minor, and she must be released from federal custody into the custody of the sponsor. She would then be allowed to obtain the abortion by herself, with the sponsor taking her to and from the appointment. The government has until Oct. 31 to find a sponsor.

As of last week’s ruling, Doe is 15 weeks pregnant and has secured outside funding for the abortion. Abortion is prohibited in Texas after 20 weeks.

The ACLU, who is representing Doe, has filed an emergency petition asking for a full review of the case by all 10 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Trump administration has asked the appeals court to deny the petition, saying the court will review the case Oct. 31 if no sponsor is found. The administration also stated that the teen can return to her home country in order to seek an abortion.

Texas' bishops objected to the ACLU’s ongoing attempts to require cooperation in abortion, and noted that religious organizations, such at the Catholic Church, are involved in immigration efforts for unaccompanied minors and work with pregnant mothers.

They also decried the ALCU’s previous litigation seeking to bar the reception of funds from faith based-organizations, saying such actions are “thwarting the delivery of vital human services by organizations with the competence and experience to provide them.”

“As this case continues through the legal process, we pray for this young mother and her unborn child, so both may enjoy the protection and refuge the United States offers.”

'An idolatry that kills': Pope Francis on greed

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2017 / 10:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis preached Monday about the idolatry of money, which causes us to ignore those in need, allowing others to go hungry and die while we turn money and worldly possessions into false gods.

Today there are people who are greedy for more money and worldly goods, people who have “so much,” but walk by “hungry children who have no medicine, who have no education, who are abandoned,” he said Oct. 23 during his homily at Mass at the chapel of the Vatican's Casa Santa Marta.

This is “an idolatry that kills,” that makes “human sacrifices” to the god of money, the Pope said.

“This idolatry causes so many people to starve,” he stated, pointing to the example of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people who have been displaced from their home in Burma, also known as Myanmar, due to ethno-religious persecution.

There are 800,000 Rohingya people in refugee camps, the Pope said. And of these, 200,000 are children. They are “malnourished, without medicine,” he said.

“Even today this happens,” he emphasized, noting how our prayers against idolatry “must be strong.”

We should pray: “Lord, please, touch the hearts of these people who worship… the god of money. Touch also my heart so I do not fall into” the same thing, that I can see everything clearly, he said.

The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group who reside in the Rakhine state of majority-Buddhist Burma. They have been denied citizenship for nearly 40 years, and their persecution by the government has intensified in recent years.

Pope Francis has spoken out on behalf of the minority many times in recent years. In November he will visit Burma, as well as Bangladesh, where he will undoubtedly speak out for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

In his homily, he reflected on the words of Christ in the day’s Gospel from St. Luke: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

God who ultimately puts a limit on our attachment to money, Pope Francis said, since at the end of life it becomes worthless.

Many men worship money and make money their god, he continued, but their life has no meaning. “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God,” Francis said, quoting from the Gospel of Luke.

God underlines this with “gentleness” in the end, he said. To make ourselves rich in what matters to God, “that is the only way. Wealth, [yes], but in God.”

Pope to Canadian youth: Let Christ lead you in the adventure of life

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a video message to participants in a youth forum in Canada, Pope Francis told young people to meet Jesus in prayer, letting Christ direct their lives – thus leading them on an incredible adventure.

“Young people, let Christ reach you,” the Pope said.

“Let Him speak to you, embrace you, console you, heal your wounds, dissolve your doubts and fears – and you shall be ready for the fascinating adventure of life, that precious and inestimable gift that God places every day in your hands.”

Continuing, the Pope encouraged young people to go “meet Jesus, be with Him in prayer.”

“Entrust yourselves to Him, give your whole life over to His merciful love, and your faith…will be the luminous witness of generosity and of the joy there is in following Him, wherever He should lead you.”

Pope Francis sent the 8-minute video message to youth participating in the Canadian National Youth Forum, which was held Oct. 22 on the theme of the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops, “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

The nationally televised forum was hosted by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and by Fr. Thomas Rosica, founder and CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network.

In his message, Francis told the youth not to let people destroy and exploit the world – a world that reveals its beauty when people work together, looking for the good of each person.

“I invite you to flood the places where you live with the joy and enthusiasm typical of your youthful age, to irrigate the world and history with the joy that comes from the Gospel, from having met a Person: Jesus, who has enthralled you and has drawn you to be with Him,” he said.

He also said he wanted to remind them of the Jesus’ words when his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, where do you live?” and he answered, “Come and see.”

Jesus says the same thing to us, inviting us to come to him, he said, asking: Have you heard his voice? Encountered his gaze? Though “din and dizziness seem to reign in the world, this call continues to resonate in your soul, to open it to full joy,” he stated.

In order to respond to this call, you must discern God’s plan for your life, the Pope continued, a plan he has for each and every one of you. Even in difficulty or failure, God, “rich in mercy,” is always giving you his hand to help pick you back up again.

The Pope noted that some of these words were part of the letter he wrote to young people in January when he presented the theme of the upcoming Synod.

He emphasized that the world and the Church are in need of courageous young people, who don’t run away from difficulty, but face trials with “hearts open” to others.

He asked that they would not ignore their peers’ cries for help. “I count on your willingness, your commitment, your ability to face important challenges and dare to make the future, to take decisive steps along the path of change,” he said.

Concluding, Francis voiced his hope that the meeting between young people of Canada would be like the meeting of the first disciples, and that it would open them up to the beauty of a life spent following the Lord.

“For this reason I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like you, to whom God turned His loving gaze,” he said.

“Let yourselves be taken by Mary’s, and let her guide you to the joy of saying a full and generous, ‘Here I am!’ Jesus watches you and awaits a ‘Here I am!’ from each of you.”    

 

Catholic organizations, groups actively working on Puerto Rico's recovery

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Wallice J. de la Vega

QUEBRADILLAS, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- A month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Catholic organizations, groups and individuals were still among the most prominent responders to the needs of a suffering people.

Despite early logistical obstacles, as of Oct. 20, the local Caritas chapter had disbursed over $1.1 million in aid to an estimated 50,000 people -- including food, clothing, first aid supplies, potable water and sundries. At its San Juan office, hot lunches also were being distributed daily to members of the community.

"We had to blindly design a response plan," Father Enrique "Kike" Camacho, executive director of Caritas Puerto Rico, told Catholic News Service Oct. 19. "But after communications opened somewhat, we began improving the plan based on diocesan reports. Today, we have a well-coordinated relief system at Puerto Rico's 500 parishes in all six dioceses."

Caritas has been closely working with Catholic Charities USA on Puerto Rico's recovery since Hurricane Irma brushed the island's northern coast two weeks before Maria followed Sept. 20.

Kim Burgo, senior director of disaster operations for Catholic Charities, told CNS: "One of our biggest challenges is money because there were two other hurricanes before ... but then Maria comes along, which in many ways was worse than Harvey and Irma, and people have donor fatigue and it is very difficult to get donations for Puerto Rico. The need here is so much greater, yet the financial resources are so much less."

Puerto Rico's post-hurricane recovery efforts have been largely a grass-roots impulse, mainly spearheaded by newly formed young adult movements and religious groups that have become an alternative to slow, complex and bureaucratic government procedures. Most of these groups, local and coming from the U.S., include Catholics.

Katherine Riolo, a Catholic volunteer with the Canadian relief foundation Impact Nations, came to Quebradillas, a town of 25,000 residents in northwest Puerto Rico, with a team of four to help distribute 300 portable water filters around isolated homes deep in the mountains. Riolo is a retired schoolteacher and a 30-year missionary veteran who is a member of the Sangre de Cristo Parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was her first disaster-related mission.

"All the devastation ... when you see this, no electricity, families living with no water to bathe in, it's hard and they are traumatized," Riolo told CNS while distributing the water filters around Quebradilla's Guajataca sector Oct. 21. "When you come into someone's house, they don't forget that, and when you tell them, 'God thinks about you so much that he sent us ... and there's a whole lot of people in my town thinking about you,' they don't forget that.."

Asked about what drives her to do missionary work, Riolo simply answered: "We are the hands and feet of Jesus."

Bishop Daniel Fernandez of Arecibo touched on that exact sentiment from Riolo at a Mass at St. Raphael the Archangel Church in Quebradillas Oct. 22, World Mission Sunday.

"The Father sent his son into the world -- mission means to send," said Bishop Fernandez during his homily. "If sending means mission or mission means send, then Jesus was the first missionary."

Just as the church cannot avoid being missionary, the bishop said, neither can Catholics avoid it. Therefore, he said, offering witness of our faith has to be practiced with good deeds "in times of hurricanes like this one."

Parishes in the inner mountain regions of Puerto Rico have fared the worst after Hurricane Maria. Not only have their congregations' financial support diminished due to massive unemployment, but also federal and local government support is not being received in their towns. Many parishes, like St. Raphael the Archangel, are holding ongoing relief collections for them.

Before Mass, Bishop Fernandez told CNS the Diocese of Arecibo is distributing all aid coming from Caritas directly to its 59 parishes. His diocese and the Diocese of Mayaguez are the most damaged of the dioceses. The island has one archdiocese, San Juan, and five dioceses.

"I'm perceiving much unity and even calm within the faithful," said Bishop Fernandez. "However, (the priests and I) are attentive because we know that as time passes and, if the situation doesn't improve at an adequate pace, tolerance levels might diminish as the physical exhaustion rises."

Recovery after Hurricane Maria, one of the most destructive in Puerto Rico's history, has been slow. Official reliable statistics about hurricane damage, including an accurate death toll, have been scarce and widely debated by experts.

The latest government timetable for recovery announced Oct. 19 says 90 percent of the island will have its electric power normalized by Dec. 15. That recovery plan is said to yield a totally new and diversified power grid that would bring back hydroelectric systems and add solar power components.

Traditionally a Catholic people, Puerto Ricans feel the church tends to be the most trustworthy source of relief in disaster conditions. For Father Kike, that represents one of the church's most important challenges.

"To me the greatest challenge in these situations is to meet our people's expectations" he said. "They expect a lot from the church because they trust it, and there's pressure on us. It's a high standard and we cannot fail."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Church can't be blind, deaf to people with special needs, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must be welcoming and creative in finding ways to not let people's physical, psychological or intellectual limitations keep them from encountering God, Pope Francis said.

"The church cannot be 'mute' or 'tone deaf' when it comes to the defense and promotion of people with disabilities," he told differently abled individuals, their families and pastoral workers and professionals who work with them.

Words and gestures of outreach and welcoming must never be missing from any church community, so that everyone, particularly those whose journey in life is not easy, can encounter the risen Lord and find in that community "a source of hope and courage," he said Oct. 21.

The pope spoke during an audience with 450 people taking part in a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The gathering Oct. 20-22 was dedicated to sharing best practices in engaging and catechizing persons living with disabilities -- a topic Pope Francis had specifically asked the council to look into, conference organizers told Catholic News Service.

Fortunately, the pope told the group, there has been progress over the past decades in recognizing the rights and dignity of all people, especially those who are more vulnerable, leading to "courageous positions on inclusion" so that "no one feels like a stranger."

However, attitudes that are often "narcissistic and utilitarian" still abound, marginalizing people with disabilities and overlooking their human and spiritual gifts, he said.

Also still too pervasive is an attitude of refusal of any potentially debilitating condition, believing it would be an obstacle to happiness or the full realization of oneself, he said.

It's an attitude, the pope said, that is seen in today's "eugenic tendencies to kill unborn children who display some form of imperfection."

But "in reality, all of us know many people who, even with their serious frailties, have found -- even with difficulty -- the path of a good life, rich in meaning," he said, and "we know people who are outwardly perfect" yet full of despair.

"It's a dangerous deception to believe in being invulnerable," he said, since vulnerability is part of the essence of being human.

Two participants from the United States, who were part of the conference organizing committee, and a father of a young woman with Down syndrome told CNS that the usual approach of "special programs" for people with particular needs should change because they can become a form of segregation.

For example, Sister Kathleen Schipani recalled how dark and lonely it was going to an empty school late every Wednesday night for a parish program meant for children with disabilities.

Sister Schipani, who leads the office for persons with disabilities and the deaf apostolate at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said the model they are pursuing is to have one parish religious education program for everyone, but with options for smaller breakout groups, one-on-one instruction or other methods that can address individuals' particular needs.

Janice Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability based in Washington, D.C., said too much focus on providing special programs also has meant some people get turned away from their neighborhood parish because the church doesn't have a program accommodating a specific disability.

"The first thing is welcome the person," she said, and speak with them; the church is more than a collection of programs, it's about relationships with each other and with God. "It's not so much having the skills or having the professionals, it's knowing the person and then just an ordinary way of expressing how they belong to the church" in catechetical formation, participating in the liturgy in some way or parish activities, said Sister Schipani, a member of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Also, a policy for creating media should be that it is planned from the start with everyone in mind, so that a video, for example, has both visual captions and audio narration since digital platforms "can get less accessible" if they rely too much on one style or format, said Benton.

Not only do people with disabilities miss out on support and the sacraments, the whole church community loses by not including their differently abled brothers and sisters in Christ, said Blase Brown, whose 31-year-old daughter, Bridget Mary, runs ButterfliesForChange.org and is a public speaker about life with Down syndrome.

"The gifts she has to share, particularly at the level of her faith" he said, are "an untapped, beautiful" resource. The question he always asks, he said, is why don't dioceses put more focus on "how day-to-day parish life, religious education, schools, liturgy" can include people with various disabilities rather than come up with activities that sideline them.

Being together, he said, is "the highest level of respect."

There might be some disruption or distraction when people with disabilities are more widely welcomed, he said, just like when a baby cries from the pews. "This is who we are, we are people. This is living. This is life. Everybody belongs at the table and sometimes somebody is going to be disruptive and you deal with it," said Brown, who lives in the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois.

Sister Schipani said priests can make all the difference by setting the tone and the example for the rest of the parish. Priests can talk "from the pulpit" and parish bulletins can explain about being welcoming, patient and comfortable with families with children and adults with disabilities. Ushers, too, can help by "modeling really wonderful ways of welcoming and including and giving people choices" about seating arrangements, she added.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Church can't be blind, deaf to people with special needs, pope says

Holy Land Christians must work together, pope tells patriarch

World needs you to be courageous, pope tells Canadian youths

Being Christian means being missionary, pope says

Being Christian means being missionary, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics must make a real effort to share the Gospel with all people, fighting "the recurring temptation" that leads some to focus only on internal church matters or to be pessimistic about evangelization efforts, Pope Francis wrote.

"May the Good News that in Jesus forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear be proclaimed to the world with renewed fervor and instill trust and hope in everyone," he wrote in a letter encouraging preparations for an "extraordinary missionary month" to be celebrated in October 2019.

The Vatican released the letter Oct. 22, World Mission Sunday, as Pope Francis was reciting the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"I exhort everyone to live the joy of mission by witnessing to the Gospel in the areas where they live and work," Pope Francis said. "At the same time, we are called to support with affection, concrete aid and prayer the missionaries who have set off to proclaim Christ to those who still do not know him."

The pope told visitors in the square, "It is my intention to promote an extraordinary missionary month in October 2019 with the goal of increasing the passion for the church's evangelizing activity 'ad gentes,'" a phrase meaning "to the nations" and used to describe missionary activity focused on people who still have not heard the Gospel.

The special missionary month will coincide with the centennial of a major document on missionary activity issued by Pope Benedict XV. "In 1919, in the wake of a tragic global conflict (World War I) that he himself called a 'useless slaughter,' the pope (Benedict XV) recognized the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous," Pope Francis wrote.

The document, and the Second Vatican Council 50 years later, emphasized how missionary activity is essential to the life of the church, Pope Francis said. And St. John Paul II noted how Christians' mission to spread the Gospel could be seen as having just begun.

To be Christian is to be missionary, he insisted. It "can no longer be enough" simply to try to keep one's parish or diocese going.

"Let us not fear to undertake, with trust in God and great courage, a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that the church's customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today's world rather than for her self-preservation," the pope wrote.

Pope Francis prayed that the centennial of Pope Benedict's document and the extraordinary mission month would "serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past."

"In these, our troubled times, rent by the tragedies of war and menaced by the baneful tendency to accentuate differences and to incite conflict," he prayed that Gospel hope would be shared and spread all over the world.

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Editors: The text of Pope Francis' letter in English is available at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20171022_lettera-filoni-mese-missionario.html

The text in Spanish can be found at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/letters/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20171022_lettera-filoni-mese-missionario.html

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.